“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you plug in a google search for the causes of low back pain, you’re guaranteed to come across every type of reason that you might be suffering from this potentially debilitating condition.
Your search will no doubt return pages of results with slipped discs, weak cores, or scoliosis. Some pages may even make reference to stress, depression, fibromyalgia or other more esoteric manifestations.
While these may appear to be likely culprits, the’re often more representative of sources of pain, and not causes (go here to read more about causes vs sources of pain).
Now at this point you’re quite possibly thinking that I have no idea what I’m talking about or that I’ve gone off my rocker.
Take a leap of faith and trust me.
I’ve worked with and learned from hundreds of people who have had every imaginable form of low back pain. I’ve spent countless hours studying the research, taking courses, attending seminars, talking to experts, and otherwise investing in my “low back pain” education.
Over this time, and as with almost everything in life, I’ve come to recognize that there are a few underlying patterns the pop up.
For lower back pain issues, the three items that keep showing up are:
1. The person suffering from the condition doesn’t know why her back hurts. Or she may have an idea, but not know what to do about it. If you don’t know what could be damaging your back or you don’t know how to change what’s hurting you, it’s pretty hard to get better, isn’t it?
This is the knowledge component.
2. The low back pain sufferer has some form of motor control issue. This can include postural faults, muscle imbalances, mobility restrictions (or it’s partner in crime, instability), and sub-optimal movement patterns.
3. Finally, there is almost always a component of de-conditioning. While this is often thought of as a lack of general fitness, this can also include a missing component of specific fitness. I’ve worked with professional athletes who were in prime physical condition, but lacked some very specific physical abilities that either put them at risk, hurt them or kept them in pain. Once this limiting step was fixed, their bodies were able to heal and performance improved.
And that, my friends, is the general recurring theme that kept showing up in the hundreds of cases of low back pain I have worked with over the years.
As with any problem, having a framework to work from helps in creating a solution. Low back pain is no different.
To this day, I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution for every type of low back pain problem. There are too many variables and too many factors that can’t be controlled.
However, following the wise insight of Ralph Waldo Emerson, I do believe that the above described general framework and it’s underlying principles will help guide each individual towards his or her own unique “methods”.
These methods will form the foundation of a successful low back pain treatment program.
Yours in movement.